Look: I am eager to learn stuff I don't know--which requires actively courting and posting smart disagreement.

But as you will understand, I don't like to post things that mischaracterize and are aimed to mislead.

-- Brad Delong

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Conversation with a Conservative

A couple of weeks ago reader Cooljazz (no relation) left a long and detailed comment at the post where I asked Romney supporters to explain their preference.  I've hoisted his comment from the archive and will give it a detailed response.

Cooljazz said:

The Democratic Party has the perception of pandering to liberal social issues, i.e. immigration, woman's rights, same sex marriage, etc. I consider this to vote buying where democratic candidates gain support from special interests (groups organized on specific social issues) in exchange for promises to pursue those interests. In general I consider this to be a weakening of national moral fiber, which is a precursor to mob rule.

I am bothered by the ability of special interests groups, via undisciplined media, to distort political issues such that rational discussion cannot take place. The Susan Komen Foundation and Family Planning debate or UAW support of Matty Maroun's opposition to the International Trade Crossing are excellent examples of where special interests were able to distract and confuse the public. It is difficult for me to support the Democratic Party because I do cannot find common ground and even my willingness to compromise on issues is polarized by special interests groups. Essentially, by voting for the Democratic Party, I feel compelled to give up on my principals.

For instance, if I vote down proposals to change the Michigan constitution to add additional protections for unions then I must be a right-wing conservative pushing "right-to-work" legislation. This is not the case but I will be darned if I can have a rational conversation on this issue in my neighborhood Coney, which is mostly populated by retired UAW automotive employees. I am not necessarily against universal health care but I think it would have been more appropriate to identify means to bring down the cost of rising health care than to push legislation that might exacerbate the situation. I believe in the institution of marriage but might compromise on civil unions, depending on whether I perceived this to further weaken the family structure. In short, voting for the democratic party would push me further into hypocrisy than I can tolerate.

Alternatively, the Republican Party resonates better with my Christian views and beliefs. By virtue of having a position, conviction or religious perspective, I can then debate the merits of proposals that support or detract from this foundation. This foundation base is not something I find in the Democratic Party, other than a sense of fairness, which I believe is a primary objective of the Democratic Party. This platform is why I don't think that the Democratic Party will accomplish much in the next four years, which I may expand upon later assuming that this discussion is of any interest.

Before I even start, it should be plainly obvious that I am in near total disagreement with almost all of this.

I'll also reiterate that what I am looking for is a way to comprehend the conservative position.  I'm seriously astounded that intelligent, educated, thoughtful people of integrity - and I know Cooljazz to be just such a person - can support what the Republican party has degenerated into, and specifically an arrogant squirmy ethical chameleon like Willard Romney.  I will state my opposition to Cooljazz's arguments as forcefully as I am able, but I am not foolish enough to think I can change anybody's mind.

My response:

You first paragraph describes a perception of Democratic pandering. Let's first agree on what pandering is.   From Wikipedia we get this: "Pandering is the act of expressing one's views in accordance with the likes of a group to which one is attempting to appeal. The term is most notably associated with politics. In pandering, the views one is verbally expressing are merely for the purpose of drawing support up to and including votes and do not necessarily reflect one's personal values."

So I have to say you are badly mistaken in this accusation.  Do you really believe that Dems, in general, are less than serious about the issues you mentioned?  In fact, a fundamental difference between  progressives (not that all Dems are) and regressives (which, unfortunately all modern Rethugs seem to be) revolves around issues of human rights.  If you can see questions of immigration, women's rights and gay marriage being decided on the basis of granting life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to all, as opposed to repressing the rights of certain targeted groups, then we can come closer to an agreement.

Further, I can think of no greater panderer in recent history than Mitt Romney, who first, has never taken a principled position on any issue (this is also true of previous candidate John McCain), and second, in the debates reversed himself on almost every issue that was addressed, while espousing positions on several of them that were in direct opposition to his own platform, as presented on his web site.  If this is a weakening of national moral fiber, then the guilt clearly lies with Mitt Romney and his team.  You don't see this kind of shape-shifting from Dems.

If you are bothered by the influence of special interest groups, I recommend you look into and then do some serious thinking about the K-Street lobbying organizations and their vice-like grip on the Republican party.  The beginning of your second paragraph ought to be addressed to Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck and the vast right-wing media machine funded by the Koch brothers and their rich allies, and think tanks, and the regressive agenda put forth by the American Legislative Exchange Council.   To relate special interest influence and media over-reach to the Democrats or any pursuit of a progressive agenda is a serious misunderstanding of the bought-and-paid-for contemporary American political landscape.  I have to wonder where you get your information, and to what extent you are being misled by the kinds of grotesque reality distortion that is characteristic of right wing media.

I don't think your examples are particularly cogent.  Maroun's attempt to distort the state constitution went down in flames, so it's hard to see how the public was confused. And I think you have the Komen issue exactly backwards - it was anti-abortion crusaders who distorted and misinformed.  More broadly, misinformation and distortion are now characteristic of, and in fact [along with blatant voter suppression and gerrymandering] vital to the success of Republicans.  Look also at the bait and switch tactics of the governors in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and Florida who campaigned as moderate and reasonable, but have implemented the extreme regressive ALEC agenda.  How is this not a violation of principles - both yours and theirs?

As it turns out, by not supporting the state constitutional amendment to protect unions you have enabled the "right to work" actions just rammed through the lame duck session here in MI - with no public debate or support.  Note that Snyder was never in favor of this - until he was.   Note also that "right to work" states always have lower salaries, poorer working conditions, worse safety records, and a lower standard of living. This action is very bad for Michigan.  In fact, the middle class life style you and your family have been able to enjoy, and the benefits, holidays and vacations we took for granted while we were working together came to us - even in our salaried positions - because of the bargaining power of unions.

Regarding health care, all credible studies indicate that the ACA will lower health care costs by a considerable margin, not exacerbate them as you have suggested.  In fact one great way to even more effectively lower health care costs would be to get the non-value-added for-profit insurance companies out of the loop.

On the gay marriage issue, I challenge you to demonstrate how gay marriage in any way threatens the institution of marriage or family structure.  I don't have stats at my finger tips, but I think the record shows that same-sex couples have success rates no worse than hetero couples, and actually have more stable family structure.

So where is the hypocrisy of voting Democratic?

On the religion issue, I have to wonder how a party so strongly influenced by a rich elite, that fosters blatant greed, places material things above people at every opportunity, not only sanctions but is enthusiastic about torture, and is willing to wage war - the greatest evil ever visited upon humankind - on flimsy or totally trumped-up pretenses can resonate with anyone's Christian values.  What I see in the message of Jesus is love, forgiveness, acceptance, generosity to the less fortunate, a strong disdain for wealth and materialism, and an admonition not to judge others.  Also, he healed the sick - for free, if I have this right.  These values are essentially 180 degrees away from the Republican platform and belief system.

I would like to see you consider these things when you debate the merits of proposals that support or detract from your religious foundation.

To your last point, if this administration doesn't accomplish much in the next four years, it will be directly and specifically due to the obstruction of the most recalcitrant and disloyal congress in the the post civil war history of our country.  Their stated goal since the 2008 election, under the direction of Rush Limbaugh, has - quite openly - been to make Obama fail.  Anything tragic that happens to the country, like derailing the economy, is mere collateral damage, and not worth thinking about. Plus, since it happens on Obama's watch, they'll be able to blame him. [I think enough people are starting to see through this that Obama was able to be re-elected.]  To my mind, this goes far beyond hypocrisy and partisanship and constitutes actual treason.  Note that nothing even remotely like this has ever been perpetrated by Democrats.  Or by Republicans either, prior to 1992.

My assessment is that starting with Gingrich's contract on America [though the roots of this really go back to Nixon and Atwater], the Republican party has set a course that has veered off the legitimate political map to a terra incognita of repression and intellectual nihilism that defies alignment with any valid political ideology, and has culminated in the willful ignorance and de facto insanity represented by the tea party.

I welcome your response.

I also invite any interested reader to participate.  But I warn you that any comment that displays the slightest disrespect to either of us will be deleted immediately and with extreme prejudice.

12/13 Update:  This week the Lame duck Rethug congress in Michigan, in addition to  the "right-to-work" legislation mentioned above also passed - without any public support or input - 1) an emergency manger law nearly identical to one tossed out by the voters in a referendum just last month, 2) some of the most draconian anti-abortion legislation in the country, and 3) laws allowing guns to be carried in schools, day-care centers, stadiums, and churches.  [Vetoed by Snyder] What could possibly go wrong?  After all, we aren't Connecticut.

None of this represents the will of the citizens of Michigan.  In fact, it is distinctly counter to it. What you see demonstrated here, even beyond craven partisanship, is the right wing contempt for democratic principles and disdain for governance that have characterized the Rethug party for the last two decades.

This is what you get when the Rethugs have power.  They don't govern; they rule.  They are the deciders, and democracy be damned.   This is just part of why I say that it is virtually impossible for a decent person to be cynical enough when thinking about the Rethugs.  You are just very reluctant to put your mind in a place where you can face their rampant evil.

I mentioned Rethug nihilism above.  Here it is described in lurid detail by a genuine conservative, and devout Christian who realizes how thoroughly loathsome the Rethugs have become.


herlanderwalking said...

Thank you so much for posting. I admit, I get so frustrated talking to some of the REpublicans I know because they really do foist Faux Nooz soundbites at me like mortar rounds.

I am linking to this..because I am so happy to see such an effort at dialog honestly made.

herlanderwalking said...

BTW---someone who hit my link to here? They claim their anti-virus software alarmed claiming you are malware polluted and such. Me? I got nothing from my computer at all....so I am figuring it is some kind of false alarm.

But I thought I'd let you know.